I don't really know what I'm doing. I decided to ride the MS150 – the two-day, 150ish-mile bike ride from Houston to Austin - just two weeks ago. I'm a runner, not a cyclist. And I have MS.
I like a good challenge. And this ride, for which I am woefully unprepared, seems like a good challenge in part because I am woefully unprepared.
Today my attempts to get prepared backfired: I set out for a long ride with a friend on my brand-new road bike. ("You gotta have a road bike," everyone has advised. My 17-year-old rusty mountain bike wouldn't cut it).
Seven miles into the ride, while going down a small bumpy hill, the chain derailed from the chainring on my new bike. (Of course, I didn't know what the chainring was called, but this diagram helped: http://www.jimlangley.net/wrench/bicycleparts.html) I placed the chain back in its place, only to have it slip out again and again. My friend tried to help, to no avail. Finally, I realized the chainring was so loose that the chain couldn't stay on it, rendering the bike unrideable.
We walked back to my friend's house – just a mile away at that point. She lent me an extra bike, and we took a shorter ride - 15 miles or so. Then she drove me to the bike shop for my 6th or 7th visit in two weeks, where they tightened the chainring, and I rode the bike home.
For many with MS or another chronic disease, including me sometimes, it feels like the chain slips off the chainring a lot. I just found out about another friend of a friend with MS today. We are out there, sometimes too uncomfortable or embarrassed to say anything, fearful of losing jobs, friends, opportunities. One in every 750 people.
MS can be paralyzing, literally and figuratively. But we have to learn to improvise, to change plans – to take the shorter bike ride – and to reach out for help.